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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

A Kinder, Gentler City?
By Mat Tombers

About a week ago, the New York Times reported on a study that talked about the changes in race relations that had come from 9/11. The report, widely discussed both in the newspapers and on most television newscasts, had determined that race relations within New York City and particularly in Manhattan had never been better.

It has been a conversation piece at dinner parties and at lunches between people of all races and backgrounds, color, creed and sexual orientation.

It is true, people feel, that relations between the races have never been better, particularly in Manhattan. It seemed a common experience among racial groups that they were being more respectfully treated by the white population. As one man put it: everyone is treating everyone else with the thought in the back of their minds that the other person is someone who might just be the one to help them out of a burning building.

So every ethnic group is treating every other ethnic group with greater respect because we all think we are going to need each other in another crisis. This is not necessarily a bad thing; nor is it necessarily a good thing. Has it taken reality of a common threat to make us treat each other respectfully? Yes.

Some people think that we are being better with each other on a temporary basis; that this will all fade with time. It is, of course, possible and may be even probable but there is a part of me that does not think so. A very large part. The news pundits seem evenly divided on the subject. The civic natter of the city also seems evenly divided.

Tripp is among those who are somewhat cynical. As if, my friend of Bangladeshi descent, believes we are, in general, better to one another but that it might fade. That it will probably fade. But, he feels, that at least for now, we are kinder to one another.

Racial hatred seems a bit on the irrelevant side when you look at the statistics of who died on September 11th. Something like 86 nations were represented among the victims, and probably every ethnicity. So, today, we are kinder to one another.

It is part, I think, of a fragility we feel amongst ourselves. I am continually dazzled by the number of New Yorkers who have not ventured south of 14th Street because they cannot, simply cannot. So, looking about since all the reporters began speaking about this kinder, gentler city and I see it. A different kind of respect for one another, among races. It is something that I wished would infuse the rest of America and something I wish would move on to other issues. Yesterday morning on the treadmill I watched Linda Ellerbee defend herself because she had produced a program for Nickelodeon about children of same sex households. Without seeing the program, it had been condemned by a number of groups who seemed to effectively organize a campaign against it.

I thought: why? For God's sake, haven't we learned to focus on bigger issues? But not everywhere. There are still individuals who despise immigrants and aren't ashamed to say so. But there also seem to be more people who say to those narrow minded souls [at least in my humble opinion] stop!

There is still racial disharmony and then, of course, there is the Mid East which seems more explosive than ever. But it warms me when I see any little sign of change, of something getting better. It was men with planes who did the deed on September 11th but it was hate that brought down the Twin Towers.